Hire advert - Full-time Research Assistant / Associate – Impact of tropical cyclones on rice agriculture
Full-time Research Assistant / Associate – Impact of tropical cyclones on rice agriculture - Asian School of the Environment & Earth Observatory Singapore, Nanyang Technological University (apply by 16th June 2017)
The successful applicant will undertake a systematic literature review to quantify the damages and losses of tropical cyclone events on rice agriculture in Asia. This would include conducting a systematic literature review of peer-reviewed articles and grey literature, constructing a database of tropical cyclone events and extracting information related to damages and losses on rice agriculture, analyzing data, and writing research articles. This is a full-time (1 year) position. The candidate will work closely with the principal investigator.
Interested applicants should submit a cover letter explaining why they are interested in this position and how this may help them in their future career, and their CV specifying their software knowledge, research experience and two referees. Please submit these two documents to email@example.com. Only successful applicants will be contacted for interviews. The closing date for this application is 16th June 2017.
Janice Ser Huay Lee
Asian School of the Environment, NTU
We had two bright and motivated undergraduates who took up a semester long research module (ES3008) under the lab. Jinying Teo and Jefferson are Year 3 students from the Asian School of the Environment and recently completed their research projects related to land use and land cover change happening in Indonesia. We celebrated the completion of their research projects with some ice-cream.
Anti-clockwise from top left: Janice Lee, Jocelyne Sze, Jefferson, Jinying Teo
Jinying Teo, Year 3 Undergraduate at the Asian School of the Environment, NTU
What was your research about?
During this semester, I have worked on a research project under the guidance of Asst Prof Janice, and she introduced to me on the concept of sustainability efforts in oil palm concessions in Indonesia. My research project focuses on evaluating the RSPO commitments made in Indonesia’s palm oil industry.
Indonesia is currently the largest global producer and exporter of palm oil. With increasing demand for palm oil, this has also led to continuous activity of land conversion for oil palm expansion. However, this has also introduced greater negative environmental effects. The nation wants to minimize the environmental impacts attributed to oil palm expansion, and RSPO comes in as an organization that aims to help the nation alongside. With limited research and understanding on the sustainability commitments made in Indonesia, I performed a semester research to evaluate whether there more RSPO certification commitments made at oil palm concessions in the frontier or non-frontier forest regions. This includes selecting essential land cover maps from public databases and extract the required information using the ArcMap software, and performing data analysis. Through this, I was able to provide insight on the sustainability commitments made in Indonesia; whether they are serving maximum effectiveness, and are there possible changes in the regime of RSPO that can be performed.
What did you learn during the process?
Within a semester, the experience has been extremely enriching. To be able to perform a research in a semester, I was not only able to learn the technical part of GIS, but I was also exposed to the art of writing a full science research paper. I have never written a full scientific research paper, and being able to do it through the ES3008 research module allowed me to experience it. It has also exposed me to understand the full process of performing a research; from ideation, to writing up a proposal, extracting data and performing analysis, and ultimately to evaluating results and writing a full scientific paper regarding the research performed. I was also required to perform a presentation, of which I got to listen to other research presentations, as well as gaining valuable feedbacks that I could use to improve on my paper.
At the start, I didn’t have any understanding regarding the palm oil industry. Through the research, I was able to understand more about the palm oil industry of Indonesia, and it inspires me to explore further in this sector.
What was the most enjoyable / challenging aspect of this research project?
The most enjoyable part of this research is to be able to fully experience how conducting a research will be, and being able to witness every part of the project accomplished by myself.
For my final semester in year 4, I decided to take up a full internship instead of performing final year project. However, I wanted to able to experience how performing a research would be like, and this was exactly what the module allowed me to do. Within a semester, I have learned so much under the mentorship.
The challenging aspect of this project was during the process of data extraction and analysis. As I have never used ArcMap before, it was not easy when I was first exposed to it. However, I got the hang of it as I spent more time using the software and figuring out the tools that I could use for data extraction. It was definitely one of the most rewarding and accomplishing experience that I have gotten through this research. Moreover, being meticulous in data collation was also something I lacked and had a lot of challenges in. Throughout the research, I spent a decent amount of time re-collating the data because of carelessness. However, it has trained me to be more careful during collation and tabulation of data.
All in all, this research experience has been fulfilling. I did not expect to be able to learn so much from a module, and is honestly one of the modules I have enjoyed in school and able to learn so much from. I was able to learn more about the palm oil industry, acquired the basics of ArcGis, identified my usual problems and overlooks when writing a research paper. I am grateful for this opportunity awarded, and especially for Asst Prof Janice Lee who provided me with guidance (and a lot of patience) throughout the research. :)
Jefferson, Year 3 Undergraduate at the Asian School of the Environment, NTU
What was your research project about?
My research project under Professor Janice was about land conflicts and fire activity in the eastern part of Sumatra Island. There have been persistent land-use changes in three provinces (Jambi, Riau, and South Sumatra) in the region, where land belonging to the local people were - often times, forcefully - converted into industrial plantations. This, in turn, leads to numerous, enduring land conflicts. On the other hand, previous studies have identified two potential causes of fire activity in eastern Sumatra. The first is the use of fire to convert the land into plantations, while the second is a form of retaliation by the locals due to the social injustice they experience in the land conflicts.
With this background, we suspected that there was a correlation between the two events, particularly during the 2015 South-east Asian haze. To test the hypothesis, I firstly mapped the density of land conflicts and fire activity for every regency in Jambi, Riau, and South Sumatra. Then, I conducted a correlation analysis to see if there really exists a relationship between the two occurrences.
What did you learn during this process?
First and foremost, I learnt a glimpse of how proper academic research is conducted. And by “proper academic research” I mean the graduate-level research that is common in the field of environmental science. This is because of the bulk of the work that I had to do. The four months research involved running through 9 Indonesian news website for information about land conflicts, requesting land conflict data from several non-governmental organisations in Indonesia (yes, I wrote an official request letter to send to them with official NTU letter heading and my signature on it), and requesting fire activity data from NASA. I felt like a pseudo research assistant working for the Asian School of the Environment, which is good. From this time, I learnt to understand and appreciate the weight of a researcher’s works.
Secondly, I gained important research skills, namely data processing using ArcGIS mapping software and Microsoft Office Excel, basic correlation analysis, how to interpret and analyse processed data, and how to write a research report. While I am still not sure if I want to work as a researcher in the future, I believe these skills will come in handy. And even if they turn out to not be useful, at least I obtained the spirit to be ever-curious and willing to learn new things.
Lastly, I learnt how to endure in and enjoy doing meticulous works. I am grateful that while Professor Janice supervised my works closely, she let me figure out things by myself and would only interfere if I wandered too far from the track. Hence, I often found myself in an uncharted place, where the only way forward is to thoroughly scrutinise every possible step in your path. While there were times I felt exhausted, in the end, I found the joy in trailblazing the way to where no one has ever gone before.
What was the most enjoyable/challenging aspect of this research project?
To elaborate on my previous paragraph about the joy of this research project, I had not been aware of the scale of my work until Matt Luskin, a colleague of Professor Janice, praised me and Jin Ying - another undergraduate doing her research under Professor Janice - during our presentation for having completed the research. He told us that he did not expect that undergraduates could have done such research, moreover with great attention to details. Hearing that, I felt like, "Wow, achievement unlocked!" Thus, in one sense, the entire research has been an enjoyable experience for me.
There are two phases I consider to be challenging. And while they are different, they led to the same result: exhaustion. Firstly, as the data collection phase required me to be thorough that I didn't miss any details, I would often spend too much time on it that I was left exhausted. Do it for about two and half months, and you get a zombie-like Jeff. Secondly, during the mapping phase, I also spent uncounted hours of trials and errors to familiarise myself with ArcGIS. Take into account that most of my courses this semester were project-based, and you have a Jeff who surprisingly slept just enough for four months.
Nevertheless, all in all, the research project was worth every second and experience it could offer. For what I eventually received from it is the joy of knowing another potential place for my future niche in the field of environmental science.